Archiglass Studio is a family-run glass art studio that has been creating internationally recognised glass sculptures and compositions for over 30 years. Their clients range from cruise lines to the European Parliament, and even Cruise Ship Interiors Design Expo Europe! Recently, we caught up with architect Konrad Urbanowicz to learn more about the history of Archiglass, their process for creating unique and beautiful glass sculptures and compositions, and the creation of the bespoke trophies for CSI Awards 2021.
Can you tell us about Archiglass and its story as a family-run business?
It began in the mid-1980’s after Tomasz & Beata Urbanowicz graduated as architects from the Wrocław University of Technology. Prospects weren’t bright for young architects at that time in Poland, so they were exploring different possibilities. After developing an interest in stained glass during his final thesis at the Nicolaus Copernicus University, Tomasz entered and won a competition for a large-scale stained-glass composition at the American-Polish children’s hospital in Cracow in 1989. This marked the beginning of Archiglass Studio.
Tomasz & Beata Urbanowicz quickly moved from stained glass to casting glass and working on their own technology. They were seeking to find the proper and contemporary means of expression on an architectural scale without losing the detail, color intensity, and natural reception of glass. This led to the development of kiln-formed relief glass, Urbanowicz’s preferred technique. Their post-1990s works are mostly casts – solid-colored, painted, and bent. In 1997, the artists designed and built their own 180 x 300 cm kiln with a height of over 100 cm, allowing them to create large-format projects.
I (Konrad Urbanowicz) started my architectural degree in 2009. During my studies, I actively participated in proposals, projects, and international competition entries. As part of my PhD research, I have been fully involved in the works of the studio since 2015. With developing technologies and broader capabilities, we are open to new international challenges.
Archiglass glass compositions can even be found at sea aboard Queen Mary II. Find out more in Archiglass Creates an Everlasting Sunset on Queen Mary II.
How can glass artwork transform a space?
Site-specific glass artworks can have different influences on the space they are designed for and exist in. The effect might be physical and constitute a part of the architecture itself. Examples of this include artistic windows, doors, partition walls or feature walls, elements of incorporated lighting, balustrades or façades. Many of our projects influence their interiors in an artistic, unique way and convey an indirect message about the quality, purpose or history of the space. Some projects are more subtle, serving as an additional element with a visual motif that relates to the space. These projects work independently as self-standing bespoke sculptures, suspended compositions or wall-mounted artworks.
Where do you derive inspiration for your glass art designs?
The source of inspiration varies for each project, but we often take it from the architecture itself. For example, the form of the building and the baroque details of the interior of the University of Wrocław inspired the creation of our Glass Art EGG project. The function of the space can also be a determining factor for the theme. At the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic in Białystok, we cast thousands of music notes in artistic glass. These were featured as walls, columns, capitals and suspended structures. Elements of the building’s construction may also play a substantial role in defining the theme. Contemporary glass art forms enhance the character of the Gothic vaults in the historic town hall’s restaurant in Głogów. We also take inspiration from the historical or cultural values of the space, the surrounding landscape, or local phenomenon. It depends on the project and the client’s level of flexibility.
How does having a background in architecture help in creating your glass designs?
An architectural background definitely helps in understanding the qualities of space and imagining the final effects of the design, including its influence on people. We look for a fresh and open approach in our workflows and find that involvement at the early stages of the architectural concepts is crucial for that. Our architectural background allows us to recognize the potential of a location and create themes for glass artworks based on preliminary flat drawings or sketches. We visualise our design using watercolor techniques, mastered by Tomasz during his studies. We then elaborate these as 2D & 3D drawings and models. Finally, the watercolor creations find their reflections in glass casts, mounted on-site to serve their purpose.
Archiglass recently created bespoke glass trophies for the winners of the CSI Awards at Cruise Ship Interiors Design Expo Europe 2021. Can you tell us a bit more about these pieces?
We had the great pleasure of designing and realizing special trophies for the Cruise Ship Interiors Awards, held during day 2 of Cruise Ship Interiors Design Expo Europe 2021. The trophy, named “Water element”, links to an industry focused on the marine world. Each trophy is unique in its design, and features hand-crafted glass, cast at 850 degrees Celsius, lifted by a white cube. The curved artistic glass mimics the movement of water. The intensity of the blue color of the fired metal oxides changes along the element, fading towards the twisted side. This references white crashing waves or the wake effect behind a ship. The triangular shape of the trophy is also a nod to a cruise ship’s form. The translucent glass art material represents viewers seeing into a ship and admiring the cruise ship’s interior.
Archiglass has been creating beautiful and unique glass artwork for over 30 years now. Could you tell us about one of your most interesting or unique projects?
It’s not an easy task to choose the most interesting project. Usually, the most recIt’s not an easy task to choose the most interesting project. One of our milestone projects for the further development of the studio was the “United Earth” sculpture. Glass sphere has been the central element of the agora of the European Parliament’s building in Strasbourg, France for 20+ years. It represents the openness to expansion of the European Union, and was recognized by the Corning Museum of Glass, New York, USA as one of the top 100 most outstanding works in glass in the world in their New Glass Review 21.
Most of our projects are in building interiors, influencing the interior design and perception of the space. “Catamaran Sails” is a unique project consisting of three separate glass compositions in distinctive color schemes, generating different ambiences for zones within an open space. The glass pieces use optical-fiber illumination to provide a mysterious effect of quiet, soft movement and the reflection in the water invokes the image of sails in a calm harbor.
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